Tuesday, 20 April 2004

Court unpacking

More wackiness from the Bay State gay marriage kerfuffle: now the plan is, remove the judges.

Link via Kate Malcolm.


“Public policy is a government plan of action to solve a social problem.”

“Public policy is a government plan of action intended to solve a societal problem.”

Three guesses which definition was in the textbook, and which was the one I put in my lecture notes. Bonus points if you can make the definition even more accurate by adding a single word.

Political physiology

Tyler Cowen links a New York Times piece on how researchers are using MRIs to look at how voters’ brains react to political ads, and it’s a pretty fascinating piece. Though I must quibble with this graf:

“These new tools could help us someday be less reliant on clichés and unproven adages,” said Tom Freedman, a strategist in the 1996 Clinton campaign, later a White House aide and now a sponsor of the research. “They’ll help put a bit more science in political science.”

Dragging fancy machines into the room has nothing to do with whether or not you’re being scientific. Somehow people have this warped view that you can only do “science” when you’re dressed in a lab coat and goggles and there are a few bunsen burners in the room, which is simply not the case.

Driven to drink

Sid Salter had a piece in Sunday’s Jackson Clarion-Ledger on the byzantine structure of Mississippi’s alcohol laws—so byzantine, in fact, that the state tax commission (or the paper) apparently doesn’t know that Lafayette County, with the exception of the city of Oxford, is dry, not wet.

Technically untrue, but amusing nonetheless

Alex Knapp links a rather amusing parody site, which contains this rather incorrect view of American political development:

The American Democratic system works as well today as it did when the electoral structure was laid out by the founding fathers. In fact, Presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, and John Quincy Adams all ran as “Democratic-Republicans”, this party originating today’s Democratic and Republican parties. Not since Zachary Taylor in 1848 has the Electoral College voted a third-party (Whig, in this case) candidate into the White House.

That ain’t exactly how it happened. The “Democratic-Republicans” actually started out—even more confusingly—as the Francophile, agrarian “Republicans,” as in “not monarchists,” with the associated implication that the Federalists* (Anglophile, commercial, concentrated in New England) were. They then became the Democratic-Republicans and finally the Democrats circa 1828, well after the last gasp of the Federalists. Until the late 1850s, the primary opposition party were the Whigs, a party that lacked much of an ideology except, perhaps, being a tad less populist than the Democrats of the time.

The Republican Party, established circa 1854, had no real connection to the Democrats—beyond a membership of disaffected Whigs, Democrats, and assorted other parties who joined to support a fiercely abolitionist platform and the presidential candidacy of John Fremont in 1856.

Still, it’s a cute site…